What is cloud-native, really?

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Whether you’ve been around the IT world, or you’re new to it, you know that there are a ton of buzzwords thrown around in the industry. I’ve found that they tend to be stretched and bent to mean slightly different things, so it gets very confusing.


We know what they say about making assumptions, so let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. In general, the cloud refers to servers that are accessed via the internet. If you recall those server rooms from 90s movies, or for me, from going with my mom to work at midnight to fix a server issue, “the cloud” still ultimately leads to those servers. The difference is that instead of every single business having a server room that they have to build and manage, solutions like AWS and Azure have become that server stack, and they sell usage of it.

If someone is using “the cloud” that means they are using the internet to access a product* as the end user. If a product is “in the cloud” it means that their product is accessed via the internet.

What is “cloud-native”?

Real quick, let’s look at some “official” definitions that are out there. The Cloud-native Computing Foundation (CNCF) defines it as the following:

​​Cloud native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.

Non-tech speak: Cloud-native refers to a product built to be accessed in the cloud (internet), first and foremost. Additionally, the product is built in a way that allows flexible and frequent development. 

An interesting component of cloud-native solutions is usage of the cloud provider’s infrastructure (AWS/Azure/Other’s servers). “Usage” is difficult to explain or define in just one sentence. It’s calculated in a multitude of ways depending on the type of resource. I’ll leave that to another day. For today, we’ll just note that usage is measured and monitored because it is the metric used for monetization by the cloud provider.

What isn’t cloud-native?

Any product that is converted to be cloud-accessible, but not built initially in the cloud, is not cloud-native. This is where terms can get bent and stretched in their use. Be careful to note when a provider says cloud-based. This means that they’ve taken an on-prem solution and migrated it to the cloud. 

But why does that differentiation matter?

If a solution was migrated to the cloud, or has a cloud “hosted” option, that means the design and development was not optimized primarily for the cloud environment. So the user experience, efficiency, execution, and security of that product may leave something to be desired. According to Gartner, “Optimal security of cloud-native applications requires an integrated approach that starts in development and extends to runtime protection.” How exactly these may play out will be different for each product, but it’s important to be aware of the possibility since it may be a cause of frustration for your team.


What other IT topics would you like us to talk about? Drop a comment and let us know!

‘Til next time!
Jessica Starkey | Technical Marketing Engineer


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